Functional biological circuits can be printed on paper, reports a team led by James Collins at Boston University in Massachusetts.

The team synthesized cell-free gene networks from off-the-shelf parts and freeze-dried them on to paper. When later rehydrated, the networks worked as programmable in vitro diagnostics with a colorimetric output. The team demonstrated the technology by using the circuits to detect glucose and to distinguish between RNA fragments from two related virus species of the Ebolavirus genus, called Sudan and Zaire.

The paper technology should allow the easy and low-cost use of synthetic biology outside the lab, the team predicts.

Cell (2014)